Just Don’t Think About It…

When I was young I loved to dance…My dance teacher still writes to me and calls me “her tiny dancer” because I was often the smallest in the group.

I was usually put front and centre in the dance, not because I was the best, but because I was the most confident and I never forgot the steps…

I thought about why I never forgot the dance steps recently, and it was because I didn’t think about it. The dancers that would lose focus were the ones who thought about what came next instead of just doing it.

I find it interesting now to note that most of the people who are worried about what comes next in life usually mess up the step they are on now.14238211_10208515313592166_8316966165366789886_n

That, I have realised, is what I was doing with Batialo. I was thinking too much. I was worrying on the next day, and the last ride, and what he might do, instead of just thinking on how he was right now.

I would go to the horses and think he was so good yesterday that I would be too relaxed, or I would go thinking on something I had planned for tomorrow and he would know my head was elsewhere.

So I decided, just to stop thinking about it…

I also blocked out the “advice” that I would never be able to ride the horse, or that I wasn’t suited to him, because only if I believe that does it becomes true.

10838204_10205365133159624_3159153856700323084_o-3

I wrote to mum one day about the pain in my hip, and she said “is there anything you can do?”, and I said no, so she said “then stop thinking about it”.

It sounds so simple, but honestly it’s incredible how much shit you get rid of if you just stop thinking about shit.

How many relationships are ruined because people expect people to be like they were yesterday, or place unfair expectations on how they should be tomorrow?

How many good days go bad because we are worrying about what might happen tomorrow, or what we should have done today?

I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to bed in pain, and not slept all night worrying about how I might feel in the morning.

Then, one day I just decided, to not think about it.

Have you ever gone out to ride your horse and pictured yourself falling off, or worse pictured yourself hurt after falling off?IMG_5438

Well don’t, because guess what??… it doesn’t help.

Whatever we do in life there is always going to be an element of fear or failure or even injury.

My advice is, don’t think about it.

Be smart of course, but be smart in this moment, and not the next. Worry about yourself right now not yourself yesterday, or tomorrow.

It’s good to have a plan, but it has to allow for ups and downs. One of my favourite things about Portugal is if you go to lunch there is no end time. Lunch ends when it ends, and everyone at the lunch is right where they should be in that moment, not rushing off to the next thing.

People learn to appreciate just being there, and to not think about the rest of the stuff going on in their lives.

14237725_1061921613843019_4060016455013526172_n
Sponsored by Ramos Sport

It’s interesting, but not thinking takes work. You don’t just wake up one day and go “oh super I’m not thinking or worrying about anything”. You have to find things that help you be in the moment, or give you time to yourself.

Some people meditate, some paint, some play video games, or sport…(or golf) ;).

download_20140913_122536
Batialo taking a soneca (not siesta because he is Portuguese ;)…demonstrating not thinking about it…smart horse!!

But whatever it is that helps you not think…well, that is something worth holding on to.

 

 

The Tough Choice?…

I’m often told that Portugal is not the place if I really want to make it to the top. They say my horse has the potential, and I need to do it now, to make it now, to give it everything now. I am told I should be in Germany, or the UK, now.

Well, now is all we really have.10838204_10205365133159624_3159153856700323084_o-3

I could have stayed in Germany, I could move to England, I have lots of options, and yet I’m still here, and I’m still doing it the long way round.

Truth is, I love riding, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my happiness in order to win. I’m not actually willing to make that tough choice, to give it everything, because for me, there are other parts of life that I feel are important, for me.

For some reason, and for many reasons, Portugal is the place that I love to be. I feel at home here. I have lived in Germany, and it just wasn’t for me.10256695_10202600707970722_5691497753527609482_o

I am someone who needs a summer, and not a summer that lasts one weekend, but an actual summer, something that makes the winter easier to bare.

On the weekend I was sitting with my best friend, eating some of the most amazing seafood, by a beach that feels like home, and she said to me, “man your life is tough!” 🙂

If I gave riding everything I had, and moved to a bigger dressage nation, and I was successful at that, then what? I guess I give too much importance to my own happiness, but if I don’t then who will?

There are a lot of Portuguese sayings that I had never heard of, but there is one that I heard recently that I grew up hearing a lot…My mum would say “too much of anything is never good” although this never applied to ice-cream ;)…

I know people who spend their entire lives dedicating all of themselves to one thing, a job, a sport, a passion, a person, then wake up one day next to a wife they barely know, with children who have grown up without them noticing.

My father was only with me for 11 years, but he was present for those 11 years.

I know people who spend 50 years with a parent, who is present, but never really there.

I think it’s amazing, and I admire riders, who can put everything into the sport they love, and still find balance, and can still be truly happy,  but I can’t.

This doesn’t mean I don’t give it everything I’ve got, it just means that the everything I’ve got is shared between the things I find important, to me.

And of course for every person that says I should be venturing off in search of my horse riding career, there is another person who says “you really should be thinking about having kids soon”. So if you tried to please everyone you would end up pleasing no-one, and not being true to yourself either.

I have riders write to me and say they know they could be a better rider, but they have children. I say that there challenge is then to be the best rider they can be, while still being there for their kids.

My mum always said as long as you’re happy, I don’t mind what you do…

You might love your job, but be able to leave work and really leave the work life behind when you get home.

You might ride your horse everyday, and love that so much that it fulfils you completely.

You might not mind the cold, or being alone, and you might have the capacity to live anywhere, regardless of how you feel about the place.

My Happy Place- Beach in my (Home) town Cascais 🙂 🙂

I never thought I would end up living on the other side of the world, and I really never thought I would call it my home.

But I went in search of that balance that had so far been missing in my life, and I feel very lucky that I found it.

So if I never make it, I honestly don’t really care. I have this conversation at least once a month with different people, and my answer is always the same.

If I’m happy, I’m already winning.

 

Starting Again…Again…

Everyone has times when they need to start again. Horse riders typically face starting again even more often than most athletes, because of course the horse can get injured, just as easily as the rider can.

I started again, again, three weeks ago, and while it’s been up and down, this week I feel like I’m getting somewhere, finally.

Horse riders, I read today, are typically perfectionists, who put pressure on themselves, and are bad drivers, with messy cars. Well, I don’t know about the last two because my car is spotless 😉 but the first ones I can relate too. Whatever I decide to do, I always want to be the best at it, or at least the best I can be.

I get frustrated that I am not where I want to be, I want to be there now, I want to be stronger, better, not for anyone else, but for myself, and for my horse.14518754_10208669431685022_587276743_n

When I’m not able to ride how I want to ride, because of course that takes time and patience, I get frustrated. Frustration is great as long as you don’t take it out on the horse.

They say a poor workman blames his tools, well a bad horse rider blames the horse…

Last week the pet pig from the horse stable (yes pig) ran across the arena, and of course we did a nice leap sideways, but I stopped the spin. I told the pig that If I see him again he will be bacon…he squealed and ran off and I haven’t seen him since, so message received!!

Truth is it threw me a bit, and mum who is a big fan of the tough love approach, said if you want to complain about it, don’t do it, and if you do do it, don’t complain about it.

She’s right.

You have to learn sometimes to just suck it up, and decide what you want. No-one said it would be easy, and it’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s worth it.14454643_10208669431805025_724193728_n

For me it is. The bad rides are far outweighed by the good. The relationship I have with my horse, beats the times that I am afraid he might hurt me. If there ever comes a time when the bad outweighs the good, I will have to question whether I need to start again, again again, in a different direction.

It helps to have people who know you, who knew you when horses were the thing you did because you just loved it. Susanne lived with my family when I was little, and we used to ride out together on my farm…She visited me this weekend, and having known me for 20 years, it was good to be reminded that I don’t need to put pressure on myself, because at the heart of it all, is just a girl who loves horses.14509332_10208669539567719_2113312489_n

I rode today, with the knowledge that it won’t always be easy. Starting again is like starting from scratch. Today though I did my first steps of good piaffe, and it feels like a victory. You have to learn to take each small step, as something to be happy about, so you can enjoy the journey, as much as the desire to get where you want to be.

Why I Love to Write!!…

One of the greatest things anyone ever said to me was that “I write as if I have lived 100 years”.

Riding, Teaching and Writing have come to be the three things that I love most in life, and each give me a different sense of escape, freedom, and purpose.

They say that the best stories are true ones, and my writing is from my life,from the people I know, the places I visit, the things that affect me.

People say that because I write with honesty they can better understand real life things, like suicide, or travel, or living alone in a foreign country, or fear in competition.

People also say my writing is brave, and if I’m honest with myself, I don’t feel brave in my writing.

I say that I have fear on the horse in my writing, but I don’t say that some days I am literally shaking, and my heart is racing, and despite the fact that I love riding more than anything, I sometimes wish it was over…when Batialo is foofing like he is about to explode, and I’m just praying I’ll get through the ride.

I wrote recently that I miss my dad and said that I didn’t know why.

I do know why…

I found out that he had sold the farm before he committed suicide and I always thought he in part did it to save the farm, to save the family.

Even after 20 years I still cling to that idea for comfort, like if there was a reason, then it makes it better.

But does it make it better?

The horrible truth about suicide is that you are left with unanswered questions, forever, and even if you understand it…you will always wonder…WHY?

Luckily, I know that we all have things we tell ourselves to make things seem more understandable…figuring out what those things are is the tricky part.

I was really upset yesterday because my mum said I’m riding more or less like shit (yes no sugar coating). I have had a year of ups and downs with injury and I’m just getting back going.

Then I asked myself what I value more, the truth, or a compliment to make me feel better…

The worst thing you can ever do to someone is tell them something you don’t believe, just to make them feel better. The people that stay in my life are the ones who are honest with me, and allow me to be honest in return.

I know that if mum said “you are a good rider” which is what I would love to hear, I would know she was not being honest, and then everything she said after that would mean less than it does to me now.

So I went out to ride today, and just got more determined to be that much better!

If you don’t have someone who tells you the truth when you are riding, get someone. You have to learn to give yourself the pep talk, and get the determination and advice from those you trust and admire.

In my writing I try to be as honest as I can, when I teach also. Writing helps me sort out the truth for myself..

The right people will always respect you for your honesty, and the wrong ones well, they will likely not get very far.

Everytime someone writes to me to say that my blog inspired them, or that they rang their mum and said thank you, or they were honest with themselves about something, I feel so very honoured.

I hope to write about many more adventures, with Batialo, international competition, life in Portugal, all from a point of truth, as I know it.

 

And a recent message from a reader, that I thought was just really great 🙂 🙂

Just read your ( home ) blog… Hey I’m old enough to be almost your grand mother but young enough in my mind to think I could drink you under the table.. But I want to tell you how much I look up to you! You have left family and friends and your country to follow your beautiful dream. And have become the person you are..

I have just left my marriage of 32 years and am just finding myself for the first time.. I now can do the things I want to- dream to- without being told no and being made to feel old and stupid for wanting.. But I feel so scared of making the wrong decision.. Something I was always “taught” that I was hopeless at.. I now live in a shipping container on a property lent to me until of course she gets tired of not having that piece of land to do her thing with. I have my stallion mate and Colt with me an no idea what to do with the rest of my life… My parents are still alive and awesome and my three adult kids are supportive but very busy with their wonderful lives… I so look up to your take the “bull by the horns” move to Portugal and your courage and strength throughout tough times! You are a hero to me and I just want to say thank you for sharing your life, writing in such a way that it inspires me but hopefully you too! Thanks mate!

What Animals Understand?…

I talk to my horse. In Portuguese of course because he is a Lusitano, but I do talk to him. You would be surprised at how much animals understand.

They say that animals can actually interpret what we visualise. Mum would always tell me to go through my test in my head before bed, and I just thought it was a great way to get sleep quickly the night before a competition 😉

A read a study today by Jennifer Viegas who found that horses also understand words better than expected, according to the research, and possess “excellent memories,” allowing horses to not only recall their human friends after periods of separation, but also to remember complex, problem-solving strategies for ten years or more.

She added that “horses are able to learn and memorize human words” and can hear the human voice better than even dogs can, due to their particular range of hearing.”

It’s amazing what animals tell us, if we are up to listen.

I’m the only one who can tell when Batialo is mad at me. Valdeni would notice too, (Batialo’s second best mate), but others would not.

When I was 13 my grey horse got sick, and he pushed me with his nose, following me around the paddock, and I knew exactly what he was telling me, he was not ok.

I think that knowing animals all your life, and even having the ability to create a partnership with them through training and riding, actually helps you with people.

My mum isn’t a very emotional mum. She isn’t one to directly tell you things, so as her daughter I can interpret what she is saying, without her having to actually say it.

I can hear in her voice when she tells me how all her friends ask after me and say they love my articles, and they follow my journey, that she is proud of me.

When she messages me at midnight when I’m sick to see if I’m ok, or she gets grumpy with me when she hasn’t received an email for two days, this is because she is worried.

My father never told me he wasn’t ok. My greatest regret is that I didn’t see it. Because I wasn’t looking for it.

I think we live in a world where people waste a lot of time telling people how they feel without showing it, or noticing it. I care a lot about the people that I care a lot about, and I make sure they know it.

I learnt early that you just never know when it will be the last time you see someone, and I have kept that with me always.

So, now I go everyday to my horse, and I imagine it’s the last time I will ever ride him. Sometimes it’s good to just be grateful for the ability to do what you love.

We spend so many hours thinking on how we should be better, without truly enjoying what we have right now.

I’m not back competing yet, but I’m closer than I was a month ago. I tell my mum everyday how lucky I am, because I know that my happiness means the world to her.

I tell the people whose happiness matters to me, that it matters to me.

I tell my horse, that I have faith in him, and that I think we are a brilliant team, and although he says nothing back, I know that he hears me :).

 

 

The Lusitano Girl…Home is Where the Horse Is

 

I received a message yesterday asking if I was the Lusitano girl that lived in Portugal.

I often get asked if that’s who I am.

Often riders don’t want to be catagorised into a certain breed of horse, but I feel proud of the association.11411660_10205439596741167_1668263557334878812_o

I have ridden all types of horses since before I could walk, but the Lusitano is the one that “captured my heart” so to speak, and is the reason I flew 16,000km across the world, and stayed there.

Home is a concept that I have discussed a lot. People place too much importance on home as a destination. Home for me is a feeling…

I feel at home when I’m on my horse, when I’m in the arms of someone I love, or someone that loves me…When I call mum on Skype and argue about why Batialo won’t get off my left leg, even though she is on the other side of the world…I’m home.

Last week I admitted that I have been missing dad a lot lately, and it’s strange but I feel at home when I miss him. I have known that feeling for the greater 14341390_10208569097696735_1096585623_npart of my life, and it somehow keeps part of him with me. It’s not sad…People say “how sad”, and I feel lucky to still have “saudade” for someone who was so important to me, because the alternative is to feel nothing, and that would be like he never existed.

I wrote a post recently that said “it’s nice to look back now and realise that Portugal was the right place for me”, and someone asked if I ever doubted it.

Of course I did!! Moving overseas alone, without family or friends, is not like moving to a different suburb.

I still remember my first ever meeting with SEF (immigration) where I was sent to the line for South Africa, because the lady thought Australia was in South Africa, and I spent 20 minutes trying to convince her (in Portuguese and without saying “you are an idiot”) that Australia was in fact not part of South Africa at all.

Big day for her…tough day for me.

Then the finance notices would come, in Portuguese, and I would receive warnings for taxes I didn’t even know existed, or turn up to training an hour before I was suppose to because no-one mentioned the clocks had gone forward an hour.

Then the questions from strangers…”you are here alone? No family? No man?”…

Followed by the awkward moment where they would stare at me in pity, and I would stare back in pity at them!

The first time I asked for directions and they said “sempre em frente” and I replied “Always in front of what?”

I have done interviews with other riders who moved overseas and they say the food was the hardest. Well, have to say I found that pretty easy to adjust to. I would eat Portuguese Tarts for dinner if I could, and if you ever get invited into a Portuguese home for dinner, just say yes, don’t ask questions, you’ll thank me later!

I can understand the food troubles though, after being in Germany for a short while before landing in the land of the Lusitano. I honestly have not eaten a sausage since leaving there 5 years ago, and I don’t think I will anytime soon.

Aside from the tarts, ice-cream and the seafood, it was of course the horses that kept me in Portugal, plus the people made it easier.

People that help you even though you can’t possibly repay the favour. My Portuguese mum, and my Portuguese aunty, Maria Luisa, and Piedade, whom I have negleted lately, but to whom I am so very grateful.

I have talked to other Australians who have lived in both countries, and they agree that in terms of cultures that clash and those that don’t, the Tuga/Aussie mix is quite a good one…After all they most likely founded Australia right? 😉

So why the Lusitano? Well, Batialo is the reason why I write articles. He is the smartest horse I have ever known, and teaches me more than any trainer ever will.

He taught me that if you are mentally strong, you can overcome anything physical. He taught me that if I don’t listen to him, he will not try to understand me later. He showed me that unless I fix my weaknesses as a person, I will never be a good rider.

Ask me if it’s easy? Well two months ago I had actually told people I may sell him. I was at the end of what I thought I could handle. Then mum asked me if I sell him what I want to do with the money. I said buy a horse like Batialo…

But you can’t!!

I have people writing to me sometimes saying they want one like him, for a small amount of money, and I feel like responding “and what colour would you like that unicorn to come in?”

So I couldn’t give up on him, because the truth was I didn’t want another Batialo, I just wanted the one I had.

The smartest people I know are never easy, but you don’t give up on them.

I’ve always been told that while it’s difficult to win an argument with a smart person, it’s impossible to win one with someone who is stupid!

So I stuck with my smart horse…

I could sell him and go home, but if I was going to do that I would have done it years ago. Truth is I am the Lusitano girl. If I went home now I would take Lusitanos with me, and while I’m often told I don’t really fit in in Portugal, Portugal certainly fits in with me 🙂

 

Admitting Your Own Truth…

This week has been one of the best weeks I’ve had in the year that I have been injured. Mainly because I finally felt like I could do it, like the 5 years I spent on the one goal wasn’t for nothing, and that I will get back competing internationally.

Of course whenever you have an awesome week it brings up other feelings. Sometimes I wake up and I feel so grateful for everything that I have that I worry it might vanish. If someone asked me how I would change my life if I could have anything I wanted, I would ask for no hip and back pain, and that’s it.

Five years ago I would worry about everything, and my mind would race and I would have 1 million thoughts, and I was never just there in the moment. One of my best friends showed me a Portuguese song recently about a man who could never be present because he was always in the next moment, and I feel so glad to be free of that.

But sometimes, our mind wanders off even if we don’t want it to. On the horse I have learnt to control this. My riding is actually what changed me.

I’ve also realised this year that being around those that are peaceful also gives you a greater sense of peace…Like you steal it, but they get to keep it also.

This week my uncle sent me a blog that was really well written, about a girl who lost her dad when she was 18…After reading it, my first thought was, man she was lucky, I wish I had 18 years with my dad.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/emma-german/my-father-died-when-i-was-18-and-this-is-what-it-taught-me/

I talk about my father’s suicide a lot, but like it’s a different life. I can discuss it openly without getting upset, because I’m talking from outside it. I do this often because it’s a topic that is stuck and until people can open up about it it will continue to affect families around the world.

The Blog above brought up something interesting, which I never really admit to anyone. It’s not very often but I have weeks were I actually am more hurt than when he died. I feel more sadness, and more loss. Typically when I’m really happy, or someone says they are proud of me… I realise again everything that he missed, and will miss. He will never see Portugal, he will never read something I wrote, or watch me compete internationally. For my sister he will never meet her kids.

I published a blog recently about my childhood, and then people wrote to me telling me their version of what happened, things I didn’t know. It brought it back, because when it happened no-one talked to me about it.

Last week  I was thinking about my goal and Portugal and suddenly had a thought like “My life is amazing”… It was just a passing thought, and then immediately after that I felt a huge sense of loss.

Then almost instinctively I blamed that sadness on something else, and it wasn’t much later I knew what was really bothering me… for in that moment, the only person I wanted to talk to was my dad.

I lost my father before I really knew him or myself, but he is still a huge part of who I am. And every now and then something will remind me of him and it’s like I miss something that I barely even remember, and then the not remembering makes the sadness even stronger.

It’s strange though that I still worry about being judged, like I’m no longer allowed to have those thoughts. Then I feel guilty because some people have no parents, or live in poverty, and then I feel even worse for being upset about something so far away from me now.

I’m not allowed to miss him. And if I do I’m not allowed to cry or discuss it.

This is just my own restrictions and walls, but they are there, and I never let them down.

Truth is though, I wouldn’t change any of my life, because I am now so much more grateful and I give all of myself to everything that I do, and that makes my life richer.

The last line of the blog above was…”I love harder, hug tighter. Because. Blink. Life. Blink. You’ll miss it.” I learnt this lesson early, and I won’t forget it.

When I was teaching recently the student said she can see how passionate I am and how much I wanted to help her, and it meant so much to me.

My writing is where I admit most things. For Riders it helps them because they can see that an International competitor can go through all the same processes of fear and failure that we all know, but rarely admit to or discuss.

Everyone has weaknesses. Everyone has something that they try to dismiss that affects them. I admit that I feel more at home in Portugal than I ever have. I admit that I don’t miss Australia. It sounds awful. But it’s true.

I miss my family and friends, but I don’t miss what Australia represents to me.

I’m learning to admit things to people, even if it makes me more vulnerable, but I’m still not very good at it.

Everyone has things they don’t like to admit, and you don’t have to admit them to anyone else…

But sometimes it’s a good idea, to at least admit them to yourself :).